4th Sunday of Advent Year B - 24/12/2023 - Gospel: Lk 1: 26-38
Unpacked the Message
The Annunciation tells us that, we humans, can't directly hear God's voice. God talks to us through God's angel. God sent the angel Gabriel to bring God's message to Mary. The message is God's message; the angel is a messenger. The angel appeared to Mary in a promoted village, her private home. God didn't choose a popular, powerful, well-known person, but chose a young, ordinary, humble, and unknown girl to be the mother of God. In her Magnificat, God's grace awakens her to know that humility is God's way.

'He has looked upon his servant in her lowliness...He has put down the mighty from their thrones...., but has sent the rich away empty' Lk 1,52.

Mary had quietly dedicated herself to serving God in a single lifestyle. The angel said to her,

'Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you' Lk 1,28.

Mary couldn't understand the message. She wondered what the greeting could mean, and asked for clarification. The angel unpacked the greeting,

'You shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall call him Jesus..... The Lord will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and his reign shall have no end' Lk 1,31-33.

The announcement foretells what Jesus shall do to God's people.

First, He will rule over all the nations implies He is king of the universe. Second, His reign shall have no end implies that He will gather people to live in his kingdom and his kingdom has no end.

The rest of St Luke's gospel slowly unpacks this Good News message. Mary is 'full of grace and has won God's favour' Lk 1,28. Her life was not free from grief and mourning; but blended with pain and sorrow. Simeon summed up her suffering very well in one single sentence, saying 'A sword will pierce your own soul' Lk 2,35. She was able to bear all of it simply because she believed. 'The Lord is with you'. She would not bear pain and endure sorrow alone, but with God and for God's people.

When sufferings and sorrow, tragedies, and pains happen, we tend to lose our focus on God; but project self-pity on ourselves. This makes us wonder about God's love. When our faith in Jesus is weakened, and when our love for him is dimmed; we think our suffering is a sign of punishment for something we have said or done. We have a wrong image of God. Instead of having a loving God; we have a god of vengeance. Mary accepted pain and sorrow through faith and love for God. She recalled and pondered on Gabriel's greetings: 'Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.' This graces her strength to endure whatever the Lord asks of her, because 'The Lord is with her'

Hearing the message, Mary asked the angel for clarification, but she had some sense of it. She understood: God became one of us, to live amongst us and to gather us into his kingdom of love and grace.

Second, God allows us to take part in God's plan. God is the main power to carry God's plan; and allows us to be an instrument in God's hands. In this way, God makes a connection between each individual cross to his own cross. Jesus comes to share and bear our sufferings, and pains, and that would give meaning to our pains and suffering. His Cross, and his crown of thorns give meanings to ours. Jesus once called his disciples to take up their own cross to follow Mat 16,24.

At Christmas, we give gifts in the hope that they will bring joy to others. Gifts do remind us about the love made visible we have received. Christmas is the celebration of the gift of God's only Son given to us in the person of Jesus. We celebrate the gift of life because Jesus comes to give us life and eternal life. God gives us not just a part of Jesus but the whole person. Learn from Mary, say 'yes' to God, and receive the whole person of Jesus.